Like in previous Windows versions, the built-in administrator account is disabled by default in Windows 8. You can easily enable it in Windows 8 with the command net user administrator /active:yes from a command prompt with admin privileges. However, if you are locked out of your computer, for example because you forgot your password, you need to enable the administrator account offline—that is, from a second Windows instance—to be able to log on with administrator rights.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

In this post, I describe two procedures to offline enable the built-in administrator account in Windows 8. Which one you prefer is a matter of taste. In the first guide, you need to replace a Windows command, which might not be everybody’s thing. The second method involves offline editing of the Windows Registry, which I only recommend for experienced users or admins.

Offline enable the built-in Windows 8 administrator account ^

  1. Boot from the Windows 8 boot media.
  2. After Windows 8 setup started press SHIFT+F10 to access a command prompt.
    Windows 8 setup - Command prompt
  3. Type copy /y d:\windows\system32\cmd.exe d:\windows\system32\sethc.exe.
    Replace the cmd.exe
  4. Remove the boot media and restart Windows 8.
  5. At the login screen, hit the SHIFT key five times until the command prompt appears.
  6. Type net user administrator /active:yes. This enables the built-in administrator account in Windows 8.
    Enable built-in administrator account in Windows 8
  7. Reboot the computer. When the logon screen appears, click the arrow on the left.
  8. You should see now the Administrator account icon. You can log in without a password.
    Buit-in administrator

You have now full access to the Windows 8 computer. Secure the data for the Microsoft account for which you lost the password and create a new account. After you are done, I strongly recommend disabling the administrator account again: net user administrator /active:no.

Enable the built-in administrator account in the Registry ^

  1. Boot from the Windows 8 boot media.
  2. After Windows 8 setup started press SHIFT+F10 to access a command prompt.
  3. Type regedit and click HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.
    regedit
  4. Click the File menu and then Load Hive.
    Load Hive
  5. Load the SAM file from D:\windows\system32\config.
    Load SAM
  6. Enter a key name (for example, myKey).
    myKey
  7. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\myKey\SAM\Domains\Users\000001F4.
    Registry hive for built-in administrator account
  8. Right-click the F key and select Modify.
    Modify built-in administrator
  9. Navigate to position 0038 right before the value 11.
  10. Press DEL, type 10, and click OK.
    Enable built-in administrator account
  11. Click the myKey hive, click the File menu, click Unload Hive, and confirm the unloading of the hive.
    Unload Hive

The result is the same as with method 1. After you reboot, you can log on with the administrator account; no password is required. To disable the administrator account, type net user administrator /active:no at a command prompt with admin rights.

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39 Comments
  1. Ian 5 years ago

    Nice!! This is exactly what my company ended up doing.

    The big issue in my experience has been getting the machine online. If you have no network connection, even if you change the Microsoft account password online at account.live.com, it won't be able to sync back down. Admin account is great for that. And if something is actually broken, you can hit up the SettingsSync event log and see why!

    Great post Michael!! I hope people find it useful 🙂

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  2. tom 5 years ago

    When I run regedit, it appears that "Load Hive" is disabled. Looks like Microsoft "fixed" this "security hole". :}

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  3. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Ian, thanks!

    tom, this is not a security hole. You have to click on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE first to enable Load Hive.

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  4. jack 3 years ago

    Hi I did one thing wrong but now it won't let me start again the load hive option is not highlighted any help please

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  5. Anonymous 3 years ago

    Hi I need help restarting this process tnx

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  6. Michael Pietroforte 3 years ago

    It is hard to tell what went wrong because your description of the problem is a bit unspecific. I would just reboot and start from scratch.

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  7. Dennis 3 years ago

    Thank you very much! It works!

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  8. Jeffrey 3 years ago

    Thank you Michael! You saved my life. My computer is running Windows 8.1 and fortunately I have a recovery partition (D:\) to let me boot into Command Prompt instead of using a boot media. Then I noticed your system is installed on D:\, but mine is on C:\, so I have to change the drive letter in your command to make it work for me. Also, in the step 10 of the second method, my value was 15, instead of 11 as yours. But it still works after changing to 10. Now my question is do I need to delete the new key (myKey) from the registry editor afterwards?

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  9. Michael Pietroforte 3 years ago

    Jeffery, that's interesting.

    There is no need to delete the key. You just used regedit to modify the registry of another Windows installation.

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  10. Peekous 3 years ago

    ummm what happens if your on a laptop that came with windows 8? how would you do this trick then? (srry about the alias name, i like to my privacy)

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  11. Jeff 3 years ago

    I have a larger problem and this does not seem to work. When I boot to a command prompt and check the value shown it does show as 10. Net User administrator /active:yes is set. Yet when I reboot back into Windows 8.1 the administrator account does NOT show up at all as one of the accounts to select and logon as. Something happened to my machine and I have no accounts that are administrator so I am effectively unable to really admin my machine at this point. Any pointers as to how to get the built in Administrator account would be great.

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  12. shane 3 years ago

    Jeff, i beleave your case is the same as mine, windows pré installed. If you try and activate the administrator account within the recovery boot it will not enable the account for main windows instalation. You need to enable it from the CMD prompt as explained in this tutorial, in mais windows after copying CMD file as explained.

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  13. Jeff 3 years ago

    shane and everyone else, that fixed it. This is a great tip. The one that worked for me in the end was copying the command prompt and making it pop up by replacing stickey keys (5 shift clicks). Awesome tip/hack, nothing else worked for me.

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  14. Nito 3 years ago

    Great, it works, the machine IT´S ALIVE AGAIN !!! But you forget to explain us that after the work done and before the final boot, we must doing the copy of the real sethc.exe (who´s I have copy it to the root of the real system disk) again to the original place, to replace the sethc.exe who we have created with the copy of the cmd.exe over the real one. That´s so on.

    P.S.- ...and excuse me all for any english error who I have done in the text, my English is so far only "technical" because I have few talking experience here´s in my Country. Thanks a lot again, Michael, you have save my day !!!

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  15. Michael Pietroforte 3 years ago

    Nito, yes if you need the sticky key feature, you should replace sethc.exe with the original file.

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  16. Stephen 3 years ago

    Thank you for posting this Michael it's been a life saver in helping a mate with his laptop. It didn't have a CD drive so I used a Linux boot USB disk to access the hard drive and copy the cmd.exe file over the sethc.exe file - such a nice little hack!

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  17. sagar 2 years ago

    I unknowingly disabled administrator account. Bt i created another user who s not part of administrator. But now if I install any thing it s asking administrator password. How 2 enable administrator account now???

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  18. Michael Pietroforte 2 years ago

    sagar, you have to add the user to the administrator group.

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  19. Bilal 2 years ago

    It is said that my system to the specified path can not be found. Help me

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  20. Bilal 2 years ago

    My english is so bad....
    But wait, google translate is bad too.
    So again.
    My System says the path cannot be found

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  21. samhan 2 years ago

    Hi Michele.

    i follow your step careful.But when at step copy sethc.exe to cmd.exe at command prompt, the system pop up "The system cannot find the path specified".

    How i gonna copy the file to enable sticky key?

    HELP PLEASE!!!

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  22. Vic 2 years ago

    Same here,

    I had an inactive account for which i dont have a password and the adminstrator account i used. After upgrading to windows 10 the administrator is no longer active and i am locked out. The above procedures didnt help.

    What was the linux distribution ussd in the above comment?

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  23. saurabh 2 years ago

    Hi Michele, I followed regedit instructions and i successfully did it. Thanks man you are a life saver.Keep it up...

    Thanks,
    Saurabh

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  24. lleoneph padua 2 years ago

    Hi, how can I access built in admin if im using local account everytime i try to run as admin theyes button was disable. l

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  25. Poehli 2 years ago

    Thank you for your help! I will inform you that version 1 also works with W 10 Prof. After a W7-10 Update the activeated build in Administrator Acount is automatic disabled, and I nned a way to enable it.
    Two things:
    You use D: for Windows System Partition, typical is c:
    After finish activating, it is nessasary to restorate a original sethc.exe ?!
    And.... I think a read a how to, using the same way, with utilman.exe to open cmd from login screen but not sure if it works under W8 /W10.

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  26. JJ 2 years ago

    just great, thanks a lot!

    BTW: I used the second method (registry hack), and with Windows 10 you don't need the boot media: just start Windows in safe mode and do the registry thing.

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  27. Collin 2 years ago

    First option worked great for me
    Instead of shift+F10, it was shift+fn+F10 and the drive was c:\ instead of d:\

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  28. Tom 2 years ago

    Thanks.....it's working....

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  29. yong ting 2 years ago

    How to boot from windows 8 boot media?Does this work on windows 10 as well?

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  30. James Franklin 2 years ago

    The first Offline enable the built-in Windows 8 administrator account works without any authentication

    I added an account with password and added to the administrator group using the net user command. didn't have to enable the local administrator account

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  31. Uki 2 years ago

    can you help me? my win 8 lost account admin, how to fix it? i must to reinstal win8 or what ?

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  32. RAJTHILAK 2 years ago

    Super.worked out....Thank you.

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  33. Vishal katna 2 years ago

    I hav lost my administrator rights ....even cant login. ...there is only one account Administrator and it is disabled ....what to do sir...plzz suggest...

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  34. Meatcake 2 years ago

    Hi! I dont have access to the config folder, what to do then?

    Thanks 😀

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  35. David Spatz 1 year ago

    Amazing - IT WORKED!!

    We struggled with a clients computer for a week.  She was a standard account and the user with administrator rights was her long gone divorced husband.  Not a real good change to get that password.

    The trick allowed us to log in and give her administrator rights on her own laptop.

    Thank you for posting.

    Dave Spatz - Jertex Networks

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  36. Akash 1 year ago

    Thanks ! and may god bless you . You Helped me a lot and taught me a lot 🙂

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  37. Samuel 1 year ago

    Thanks a lot. The second method works fine for me. You saved my sister from losing all her documents due to failed account login.

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  38. Irek 8 months ago

    Thanks, this was I was looking for. Many thanks.

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